Iguana sits on a shoulder

The Boy and the Iguana

The America Dream – a Mexican Horatio Alger Story

Working hard can improve your life

Generally, my blog posts pertain to my time spent in Afghanistan or reflections relating to Afghan experiences. This post is a story that has to do with the human spirit and the unbelievable crossing of paths 40 years later.

When I had my own Architectural Design Business, one of the things I enjoyed most about my business was learning how my clients started with nothing and built a thriving successful business – enough to use my services. Many of the same traits kept coming up in my client’s success stories. First – hard work, second – having an idea and a plan, third – creating your opportunity or when the door opens, taking advantage of it, and finally fourth – a little luck. These clients were all hard workers and looked at a problem as an opportunity. Upon traveling to Afghanistan and other parts of the world I began to see these same traits repeat themselves in successful people over and over in various forms in other cultures. This curiosity on my part has always prompted me to ask people “how did you get to this point in your life?”

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

On a recent trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I had an unbelievable story unfold before my eyes almost like an Ernest Hemmingway story. I met this young Mexican man working the front lobby as a concierge, calling guest cabs, answering questions about the hotel, surroundings and points of interest. Sitting, waiting for my family and watching him shuffling people in and out of arriving and departing cars and vans, I noticed he spoke good English, so we started chatting. I’ve learned no matter who I talk to, I can find something in common.

He told me he was from Mazatlan, Mexico, and asked if I have ever been there? Yes, 40 years ago on my honeymoon. I told him about the grand hotel we stayed at on the beach. He smiled and asked me if I remember seeing a young boy with an Iguana on his shoulder come by on the beach asking if we wanted a picture? There were many vendors on the beach selling bracelets, hats and other trinkets and YES, I remembered a boy with an Iguana on his shoulder! That little boy was him! He told me he worked to learn English and how he has worked his way up in the hospitality business. His dream is to become a time share salesman at the resort where we were staying. The only thing holding him back is one of the requirements: to sell time shares is you must be able to speak three languages and right now he speaks two – Spanish and English. For his third language, he is required to learn either Japanese or Italian, so he is learning Italian.

This just opened my connection with him as I told him I spent six months on an Italian and Spanish base in Afghanistan and picked up a little Italian. We laughed as we exchanged a few Italian words. I mentioned that several of the Romanian soldiers I lived with on another base told me they could also understand Italian because of the similarities between the Romanian and Italian languages. Not that you might have Romanians coming to visit or buy into your resort, but you never know. I just could not believe the coincidence of meeting this Mexican boy 40 years later in a different part of Mexico…what are the odds? We both laughed looking at each other in amazement.

This young man who grew up in poverty had a dream, found a way, and is working to make it happen! For me, meeting and talking with this young man was one of the highlights of my trip. You just cannot make this stuff up.

Hard Work Pays Off

This boy’s story takes the excuses away from the people in America who feel sorry for themselves and do nothing, relying on the government to take care of them. I was taught, if I didn’t work – I didn’t eat. And here is the Boy with the Iguana, in a third world country, who took the same principles of work hard, have an idea, create your own opportunity, and when the door opens – walk through! He learned a new language on his own, and with a little luck, someone will take a chance on him.

This story shows there is hope. It reinforces my belief that everyone has a story to tell, just take the time to listen – you might learn something.

God speed and stay safe,
Mr. Rich

For more stories about my Afghanistan experiences continue checking back and listen to my podcasts.

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